An historic building in Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre has opened its doors to serve the public again.
The Guildhall is up and running as a community and voluntary sector hub thanks to
a successful partnership working between Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and Support Staffordshire.
A range of services will be accessible – ranging from money advice and mental health support to help with finding volunteering and employment opportunities – on weekdays between 10am to 4pm.
The county-wide voluntary sector support organisation has agreed to manage tenants in the Grade II listed building for 12 months while its long-term future is decided. It had been involved in earlier discussions about potential new uses following the relocation of Council staff to Castle House and in recent months has progressed conversations with a series of other non-profit making organisations who were interested in renting office and desk space.
Services operating from the iconic landmark alongside Support Staffordshire, include Staffordshire Adults Autistic Society, Moneyline, the Shaw Trust, Rethink and The
Friends of the Guildhall. Newcastle-under-Lyme Business Improvement District moves in next month. The reception desk is being staffed by volunteers.
Anticipated income levels are expected to cover running costs but the Council is still
responsible for buildings insurance, external repairs and statutory internal work. It has provided practical help with IT requirements and has also funded repairs to some of the windows, with improvements to the roof in the pipeline.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “I’m really pleased that the beautiful and much-loved Guildhall is playing a useful role in the town centre once again after such a short time. This is an imaginative solution that’s been made possible by the involvement of Support Staffordshire, other partners and residents who responded to the Council’s consultation.
“The Guildhall was never going to be allowed to stand empty. Support Staffordshire has an excellent track record of delivering third sector services as well as managing premises. The Council has provided all the support necessary to make this happen.
“Having valuable services available in one place right in the heart of Newcastle is not only convenient for residents, it helps to protect the fabric and heritage of the building, adds character to the existing retail provision and meets the Council’s key priorities.”
The Guildhall, which dates back to 1713, had fallen into disrepair at one stage. The Council took back the lease and opened it as a customer service centre in December 2008 following an extensive refurbishment programme.
Jill Norman, Support Staffordshire’s local manager, added: “It has been a very busy few weeks since we opened the doors of The Guildhall again. Local people seem really pleased to see the building in active use again and it is proving to be a popular base for local organisations. We are very grateful for the help provided by the Friends of the Guildhall whose volunteers have been dealing with general enquiries from the public.”
Anyone interested in helping with reception cover can contact Hilary Jones, Friends of the Guildhall co-chair, on 07983983840 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.